Why You Shouldn’t Ignore Your Chimney…

Fireplace

When was the last time you had a professional look at your chimney or fireplace?

Blocked chimneys can cause chimney fires or carbon monoxide to build up in your home – so it’s not one of those maintenance tasks that you should put to the bottom of the to-do list and subsequently forget about.

The experts say that chimneys should be cleaned at least once a year but I’m willing to bet that for a lot of us it’s been a while since ours had a check-up – if ever, for others.

In our Autumn Home Maintenance Checklist we mentioned the importance of having a professional chimneysweep maintain your chimney and fireplace. Now that winter has reared it’s ugly head and our fireplaces are getting a good workout, let’s take a closer look at what needs to be done.

Chimney experts Complete Chimney Care answer our burning questions (sorry)…

Why do I need my chimney cleaned?

The chimney flue is essentially a household exhaust pipe – funneling away soot, hot ashes, smoke and gases from your home. An annual inspection and clean should be done at least once a year to check for cracks, holes or faults and to remove soot, creosote, birds nests and other blockages.
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Will my house insurance cover chimney fires?

Most insurance companies won’t pay out on claims caused by chimney fires unless the chimney has been swept by a professional chimneysweep and been inspected on an annual basis.

My fire is not drawing properly…

This is usually the result of a cold or obstructed flue or insufficient height relative to the ridge of the roof or an adjacent building. Large unnecessary voids at the base of your chimney may also stop the fire drawing properly. Or if you have double glazing or very efficient draught excluders around doors, it may prevent an adequate flow of air for the fire to work correctly.

My fire creates excessive soot…

This can be the result of a lazy and inefficient flue. Your flue may not be the right diameter for the fire or stove, or it may not be properly insulated, meaning fumes do not rise fast enough and soot deposits are created. Excessive soot and tar can be a real fire hazard, particularly if the chimney structure has deteriorated.

I’ve got mortar falling into my fireplace…

Bits of brick or mortar falling down the flue indicate a serious deterioration in the chimney structure. This deterioration normally occurs from the inside of the flue but it might also indicate weakness on the outside of the chimney.

My chimney breast feels hot…

This means that the chimney has deteriorated and may be dangerous. If stains also appear on the chimney breast this is a sign that tar or acids have condensed and are eating into the chimney mortar and brickwork.

I want my chimney removed. Should I do it myself?

Removing chimneys is dangerous work, so the simple answer is no.  A small chimney can weigh around half a tonne, whilst bigger ones can weigh up to eight tonnes. Chimneys built before 1900 are made with lime mortar much of which has now degraded to dust.  Weight is the only thing holding them together. Brick structures are expected to last for 50 years so any buildings older than the 1960’s should be inspected by a professional to make sure they’re safe.

Have you had any problems with your chimney? Did you know the importance of annual checkups or the dangers of a blocked chimney?
Let us know in the comments below or on our NZ and AU Facebook pages.
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